16
Tue, Jul

From Western Fire to Eastern Heat, Fossil-Fueled Extremes Menace US

CLIMATE

CLIMATE WATCH - As the Midwestern and Eastern U.S. braced for what could be the longest heatwave in decades for some locations, a wildfire near Los Angeles forced more than 1,000 people to evacuate over Father's Day weekend.

The climate crisis caused primarily by the burning of fossil fuels is making both heatwaves and wildfires more frequent and extreme, and politicians and environmental advocates pointed out the role that state and national policy can play in fueling extreme weather.

"Each of the last 12 months have been the hottest on record," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wrote on social media on Sunday. "This week, cities across the country will see record-high temperatures. A vote for Donald Trump is a vote to surrender the fight against the devastation of climate change. We cannot let that happen."

"Politicians making bad policy decisions (like killing congestion pricing) is the number one cause of climate change, which makes heatwaves like this one worse."

Former U.S. President Donald Trump reportedly told oil and gas executives this spring that donating $1 billion to his campaign would be a "deal" for them because he would dismantle the Biden administration's climate regulations.

Sanders' remarks came as the National Weather Service (NWS) Weather Prediction Center forecast that "record-breaking heat" would "expand from the Midwest and Great Lakes to the Northeast this week, potentially lingering through early next week."

NWS said the heatwave would be the "first significant" heatwave of the season and could break daily temperature records and some monthly June temperature records for the portion of the country stretching from the Ohio Valley to the Northeast between Monday and next Saturday.

"The longevity of dangerous heat forecasted for some locations has not been experienced in decades," NWS said.

The heat index could come close to 105°F in many places, and nighttime temperatures of around 75°F mean that those without cooling infrastructure will see "little to no relief."

The high temperatures could impact millions of people from Michigan to Maine. As of Saturday, 22.6 million people were under extreme heat warnings, watches, or advisories, according toThe New York Times.

University of California, Los Angeles, climate scientist Daniel Swain told the Times that the heat would "affect a bunch of highly populated areas where there hasn't been quite as many stories about extreme heat recently," adding, "Now, it's New England's turn."

The NWS warned, "With the intense heat and high humidity it is important to take precautions to protect one's health, particularly those without effective cooling and/or adequate hydration."

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul issued a warning on social media on Saturday, pointing out that extreme heat is the leading weather-related cause of death in the U.S.

However, climate advocates criticized Hochul for exacerbating the root cause of more extreme heatwaves with her last-minute cancellation of a New York City congestion pricing plan earlier this month.

"Politicians making bad policy decisions (like killing congestion pricing) is the number one cause of climate change, which makes heatwaves like this one worse," the Sunrise Movement wrote in response to Hochul's post.

Long-time climate advocate and author Bill McKibben said: "This governor just blocked congestion pricing, one of the most important climate policy advances possible. She's redefining trolling."

Climate Central noted that, "while heatwaves are common in summer, this early season excessive, likely record-breaking heat is made as much as two times to five times MORE likely to occur in mid-June due to human-caused climate change (particularly overnight warmth)."

Meanwhile, on the West Coast, the Post Fire ignited at around 1:45 pm on Saturday local time in Los Angeles County, California, about 65 miles from downtown Los Angeles, The Washington Post  reported.

As of Sunday afternoon, it had spread 12,265 acres and was 2% contained, according to California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire). Fire officials said the blaze was fanned by heat, low humidity, and wind and had damaged two structures.

"Currently crews are working to construct perimeter fire lines around the flakes of the fire. Aircraft are working to stop forward progress but have limited visibility," Cal Fire wrote on Sunday, adding that "the fire is pushing up into Hungry Valley Park. California State Park Services have evacuated 1,200 people from Hungry Valley Park. Pyramid Lake is closed because of the threat of the Post Fire."

One of those evacuated was 33-year-old Oscar Flores, who was visiting Hungry Valley Park with his 12-year-old son on Saturday.

"It looked like it was the last day of the world," Flores told the Los Angeles Times. "People were loading quickly and merging out, driving fast. The ranger said you have 10 minutes [to get] whatever you can pack."

(Olivia Rosane is a staff writer for Common Dreams where this was first published.)

Get The News In Your Email Inbox Mondays & Thursdays